Everything you need to know about living well with Asperger syndrome
If you are wondering, ‘what is Asperger syndrome?’, this guide may help. Here, we explore what causes Asperger syndrome, what Asperger’s symptoms may be experienced, and about living with Asperger syndrome. Remember, you are not alone, and there are many sources of support available to you, your child and your family. If you are concerned about any of the symptoms or information you read here, please consult your GP.
Asperger syndrome is a type of autism. It is a developmental disability, not an illness. A person with Asperger syndrome has a different way of seeing the world compared to other people and may act differently to what is generally considered ‘the norm’.
The symptoms of Asperger syndrome are varied and no two people with the condition will experience it in the same way, but generally, they are likely to have different ways of communicating and interacting with other people. For example, they may find it difficult to understand some aspects of language and social communication, such as humour, compared to neurotypical people (those without Asperger syndrome).
Boys are more likely to have Asperger syndrome than girls. Many people with Asperger syndrome have never been diagnosed, but with more knowledge of the condition, diagnosis is improving and more common at an earlier age.
The name comes from the Austrian doctor, Hans Asperger, who first described the condition in 1944. Now, Asperger syndrome is considered to be a high functioning form of autism.
Research currently cannot tell us what causes Asperger syndrome, but continues to explore why some people have it and others do not. It is thought that genetics play a part but this is not clear.
There is some evidence that an unborn child may be more at risk of having Asperger syndrome if their mother has an infection during pregnancy, is deficient of certain minerals or takes certain medications, but again this has not been proven.
Most scientists agree that Asperger’s has something to do with the brain developing differently, but research is ongoing.
For more information about what causes Asperger syndrome and other autistic spectrum disorders, visit the NHS website.
Symptoms of Asperger syndrome can be difficult to spot and are more like behaviours than symptoms. Each person with Asperger syndrome will experience the condition differently. Generally, people with Asperger syndrome may not fit in to usual social norms and may find these very difficult to understand.
These behaviours or Asperger syndrome symptoms do not necessarily stay the same throughout a person’s life; a child with Asperger syndrome can change and adapt, but will still have Asperger syndrome.
If you are concerned that your child is displaying symptoms of Asperger syndrome, please consult your GP. Some of the early signs listed below are also symptoms of other conditions.
Asperger syndrome may be more noticeable when a child starts school. The following behaviours may be present in childhood or adulthood:
• Finding conversation difficult
• Not understanding concepts such as turn taking and sharing
• Showing a lack of empathy for how other people feel
• Seeming to be introverted and preferring to spend time alone
• Preferring routine and becoming upset when routine is disrupted
• Having little imagination
• Difficulty making friends
• Delayed developments of motor skills e.g. finding it hard to use cutlery
• Poor handwriting
• Understanding and being able to communicate, but misunderstanding elements of language such as changes in a person’s tone of voice
• Having very specific interests that other people may see as excessive or obsessive
• Having some sensitivity to noise, light etc
• Experiencing ‘meltdown’ when feeling overwhelmed
• Feeling anxious and displaying signs of anxiety
If you are concerned that you or your child may show signs of Asperger syndrome, it may help to discuss these with a GP. There is no cure for the condition, but having a diagnosis confirmed can help you get the right support going forwards. It may also help you understand any difficulties you or your child have, and find solutions.
The process of Asperger syndrome diagnosis can take some time and be quite tricky. It will often involve a range of healthcare professionals, your GP, school teachers, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists, who will assess your child and write a report about what they have found. The National Autistic Society provides a booklet on what to do after diagnosis.
There's no 'cure' for Asperger syndrome. It is not an illness or a disease to be treated with medication, surgery or by physically changing the make-up of the body. There are Asperger syndrome treatment options available, which are generally educational programmes that focus on developing social and communication skills. Asperger syndrome treatment also often encompasses a range of supportive and therapeutic services, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy.
Some parents or carers choose to explore these kinds of approaches for their child, if the symptoms of Asperger syndrome are significantly affecting his or her life, or family life in general. The National Autistic Society provides information on strategies and approaches that can help with seeing the world from the point of view of your child, and help teach parents how to adapt the home environment or situations in daily life. Child Autism UK provides services for families, such as programmes and training courses.
There are a number of supposed treatments, or autism and Asperger syndrome ‘cures’, promoted online and elsewhere, which have little evidence to support their claims. The NHS discusses these here.
There are no medications to treat Asperger syndrome itself, but there are of course drugs that may be prescribed to help treat related conditions, for example, anxiety or sleep disorders. If you are concerned about any symptoms arising from the condition, speak to your GP.
Many people living with Asperger syndrome do not have any kind of ‘Asperger syndrome treatments’ and see the condition as part of who they are, making them different to other people but proud of their uniqueness. You may find it interesting to find out more about people who are living proudly with Asperger syndrome and shunning negative labels by reading the article ‘I’m a proud Aspie’.
Each person with an Asperger syndrome diagnosis, or living with Asperger syndrome without knowing it, will have a different and unique experience. It is difficult and wrong to generalise that everybody with the condition is the same. The majority of children and adults with Asperger syndrome live well and are able to enjoy life and do many things that neurotypical people can do. Many people will have some level of difficulty with some daily tasks or interactions. However, it is sometimes possible to adapt tasks so a person can learn to do them more easily.
Some children and adults with Asperger syndrome may experience difficulty with daily life such as:
• Schoolwork – some people find education difficult, due to classrooms being busy and overstimulating, teachers being unable to provide additional support, difficulty with learning new things and writing
• Overstimulation – too much noise, visual input or social pressure can cause a person to become overwhelmed
• Feeling lonely, anxious or isolated – some people find it difficult to connect and communicate with others which, combined with having a different understanding of the world, can lead to feeling anxious
They may feel as though they do not understand the world, and may find that other people around them do not understand them. There is a lack of understanding about Asperger syndrome and autism in general, and this may make it difficult for someone with the condition to be accepted.
People with Asperger syndrome do have a valuable contribution to make to the world though and many people believe that if society was more accommodating of people that are considered to be ‘different’ then they would have a greater sense of wellbeing. Many of the behaviours that Asperger syndrome causes can actually be really positive, for example, the ability to focus on one particular topic, activity or hobby intently is not a bad thing and can lead to a person developing an excellent skill.
You may find it interesting to read real life stories to understand how some people are living with Asperger syndrome, for example, this story from The National Autistic Society about a person diagnosed in adulthood, or Sarah’s story on the NHS website. The YouTube channel ‘Invisible I’ from Katy Gough, a young woman with Asperger syndrome may also be of interest to you.
There are many products for Asperger syndrome available that may be able to help people with the condition to develop new skills and have some time out of a busy world.
Healthcare Pro are experts in providing daily living aids including aids for Asperger syndrome. Here are some examples of products that may help with a selection of common Asperger syndrome behaviours:
PLEASE NOTE: our Product Advice Team can only give advice about equipment and products which may help you to live more independently. They cannot give any advice on medications or treatments for symptoms of this condition.
People with Asperger syndrome sometimes have difficulty with eating and may only like a small range of foods. If you are a parent or carer concerned that your child is not eating a healthy, balanced diet, speak to your GP who may be able to refer you to a dietician. Poor diet can lead to health problems in the future and may make some symptoms and behaviours worse.
Some people report that eliminating certain foods such as gluten or sugar from the diet of someone with the condition, or adding supplements for Asperger syndrome has improved their behaviours or helped them feel better, but there is little evidence to support these claims.
The National Autistic Foundation provides a lot of information about eating and autism.
Regular exercise is important for everybody and people with Asperger syndrome can benefit from a greater sense of self-esteem and wellbeing through exercise. Some people may prefer individual sports or exercise as opposed to team games because working with others in this environment may be challenging for them. Everybody is different though. Exercise does not have to be strict or comprised of set activities – simply running around and keeping active is still worthwhile exercise.
Some children with Asperger syndrome find mainstream education difficult. Some find that bullying is an issue, that they feel lonely or are unable to keep up with their peers. This is not to say children with Asperger syndrome are necessarily less intelligent, and many actually have a higher than average IQ, but learning new skills, concentrating and just being within a classroom environment can be challenging for some.
Most public schools now have special educational needs coordinators, who may be able to help work with parents and children to find ways to make learning easier and more successful. Some children may dislike school and The National Autistic Society provides advice for parents or carers when a child refuses to go to school and also choosing a school.
Many people with Asperger syndrome are able to work. Some may need reasonable adjustments to be made to their working day, and may find that being open about their condition helps colleagues understand the way they work and their behaviour. For more advice or information, the National Autistic Foundation provides tips about working.
We hope you have found this guide to Asperger syndrome interesting and informative. The condition is probably more common than is generally realised. Lots of people may have the condition without knowing it. You may feel that there is little Asperger syndrome help available, but with knowledge, earlier diagnosis and more awareness about Asperger syndrome and autism in general, there is gradually more information and resources of support for Asperger syndrome.
Here, we provide links to other sites that provide help for Asperger syndrome, as well as some forums where you can discuss your experiences of Asperger syndrome with other people in a similar situation. If you are concerned about anything you have read about in this guide, please visit your GP.
Ambitious about Autism – information, specialist education and an online forum for people with autism or Asperger syndrome
Autism Network Scotland – source of information for people in Scotland who need support for living with autism or Asperger syndrome
Asperger’s Syndrome Foundation – information leaflets and training opportunities to enhance knowledge of Asperger syndrome
Child Autism UK – a source of autism or Asperger syndrome support for families, including training programmes, advice and funding assistance
NHS – source of medical and healthcare information about Asperger syndrome and autism
Scope – support and information on living with a disability including online community and helpline
The National Autistic Society – information about all aspects of living with Asperger syndrome or autism, including a variety of support services and a telephone helpline
Although we always try to explain things as simply and as clearly as possible, sometimes it’s necessary to use the correct medical terminology.
Medical terms are often known for being tricky to pronounce, and if you’re not an expert on the subject, they can also be a little difficult to understand. Below, we’ve put together a list of terms used on this page along with a brief explanation of what they mean to help make your understanding of Asperger syndrome as straightforward as possible.
A term used to describe people who do not have autism/Asperger syndrome, and have what is typically considered to be a ‘normal’ way of understanding the world and interacting with it